Garages Then and Now

Governor's MansionThe Former Governors’ Mansion of North Dakota (1893-1960) in Bismarck. This is the southeast elevation. The carriage house is a separate structure behind the house, built in the days before garages became permanent attachments in the design of homes. Carriage houses and garages were often not attached to the homes, and were hidden (this in contrast to garages being the central foci of the home today — friend, colleague and fellow blogger Richard Rothaus has some more thoughts on that linked to here). One hundred years ago, horses were smelly (or organic) and automobiles were noisy and they produced exhaust and smelled of petroleum and they leaked a lot of oil. If you were elite-elite, you would install a carousel in your carriage house to rotate your automobile 180-degrees since said automobiles didn’t yet have a reverse function (this is a feature of the carriage house/garage at the American-Swedish Institute in Minneapolis). There was always a chance (or thought) that automobiles would or could catch fire. So it was better to keep them separate from the house. As well, you’ll often see kitchens from elite late-19th century homes as separate structures from the rest of the house for this reason too: if the kitchen went up in flames, at least the house would be spared.


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